ST PETERSBURG, Apr 26, 2001 ( - Terri Schiavo, 37, has been forced to receive food through a feeding tube for the past eleven years after her heart stopped and she was deprived of oxygen for five minutes. Although unable to move, Terri can breathe on her own and her parents attest that she moans, smiles and cries and opens and closes her eyes in response to their care. However, some doctors say that her actions are only reflexes.

Her parents have been fighting a desperate legal battle for eight years with her husband over his decision to have her nutrition and hydration withdrawn. That will cause her to starve to death since she is unable to swallow. The battle ended Tuesday after the US Supreme Court rejected their appeal, thus forcing the hospital to discontinue Terri’s twice daily feeding sessions after her Tuesday morning liquid breakfast. Michael Schiavo, Terri’s husband, stands to inherit a $700,000 payment from a 1993 malpractice suit stemming from Terri’s predicament. Michael has also been engaged to another woman for several years.

Being Catholics, Teri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, had requested the assistance of their local bishop in the battle for the life of their daughter. However, Bishop Robert Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida refused to intervene. The diocese released a statement Tuesday, saying that classic Roman Catholic theology suggests the removal of nutrition can be justified if a person’s disease leads to death, sooner rather than later. However, that statement flies in the face of Catholic teaching on the matter.

Archbishop Justin Rigali of St. Louis last year released a statement on principles for health care decisions concerning assisted nutrition and hydration and related issues. Drawing on the Oct. 2, 1998 Ad Limina Address to the Bishops of California, Nevada and Hawaii by Pope John Paul II, the bishop noted that there “should be a presumption in favor of providing nutrition and hydration to all patients.” In the statement released June 30, the bishop wrote, “As Catholics, we believe a person has a moral obligation to use ordinary or proportionate means of preserving his or her life.” In the letter he quoted the 1992 statement by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities called, “Nutrition and Hydration: Moral and Pastoral Reflections,” and stressed that “we reject any omission of nutrition and hydration intended to cause a patient’s death.”

Clearly in the Terri’s case, the removal of nutrition and hydration will cause her death. In fact, doctors testified that with food and water, she could have lived decades longer but in the same so-called ‘vegetative’ state. A request by the parents to allow Terri a few more days of life so that out of town relatives could visit was refused by Michael.

Knowing that Terri’s fate is now in the hands of the Almighty, Bob Schindler has asked for prayers for his daughter. “Everybody pray for Terri. She is the focal point right now,” he said. Rev. Raymond Vega, 77, a retired missionary priest of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was one of the group of pro-lifers praying for Terri outside her nursing home. “Every man of the cloth knows this is murder,” he said.

For LifeSite’s coverage of Archbishop Rigali’s statement see:

See the coverage in the St Petersburg Times at:

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